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c) Metaphysical Systems and Divine Action

Several approaches to the relation of divine and natural causality rely on fully-developed metaphysical systems and their relation to natural science, in place of the philosophically less detailed agential models (above). Since these will be treated in some detail below, I will only note them here.

i) The philosophical system of Alfred North Whitehead was formulated specifically in light of relativity and quantum theory, giving it an important advantage over older metaphysical systems. Process theologians argue that the causes of every actual occasion includes the divine subjective lure, past occasions through prehension (in a form that is consistent with SR), and spontaneous, intrinsic novelty. This system has been deployed in discussions of evolutionary and molecular biology (Barbour, Cobb and Birch, Haught) and of physics and cosmology (Barbour, Haught, Jones, Shimony, Stapp). The close relation between Whitehead’s metaphysics and quantum mechanics deserves special further attention.Key sources include: Henry Pierce Stapp, "Quantum Mechanics, Local Causality, and Process Philosophy," Process Studies 7.4(Winter 1977), ed. William B. Jones; Charles Hartshorne, "Bell's...

Clearly process theology offers a robust non-interventionist version of divine action which allows for God to participate intrinsically in every event in nature without entirely determining their outcome. The challenge in general, though, is to show how God’s action could make a meaningful difference in the world at any level but that of quantum mechanics, if regardless of the effect of God’s lure, all but subatomic levels are described by deterministic equations.

ii) Neo-Thomists view God as the primary cause of the world and every event, process, and property in it; science studies secondary causes (Johnson) via such fields as physics and cosmology (Stoeger), and evolution (Rahner). The challenge here is to show how God as primary cause could have an effect on the flow of secondary causality, bracketing the traditional notion of miracles as interventions.

iii) Trinitarians use the identity of the Immanent and Economic Trinity to discuss God’s work in nature and history, drawing on evolution (Moltmann, Johnson) and on physics and cosmology (Pannenberg, Peters). Clearly if God is already acting within the world as the Economic Trinity, the issue of interventionism is mute. The challenge here, once again, is to show how God, acting immanently with nature, brings about novelty when science describes the process deterministically.

Final Cautionary note to the use of either agential models or metaphysical systems (and to all that follows throughout this paper!): 1) Even if special relativity is given a ‘flowing time’ interpretation for each worldline, it challenges the existence of a universal, cosmic present which seems entailed by such concepts as the ‘world-as-a-whole’ and ‘the future’. 2) The possibility of re-envisioning non-interventionist, objective, and special divine action dramatically increases both the severity and the scope of the problem of theodicy. It is essential that those arguing for divine action address this problem directly (see Section E-2 below).Russell, "Special Providence and Genetic Mutation," Section 5.2; Tom Tracy, "Evolution, Divine Action, and the Problem of Evil," in Evolutionary and Molecular Biology: Scientific Perspectives...

Contributed by: Dr. Robert Russell

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